Yet more evidence that applying a number score to a work of art, be it a movie, a novel, or a video game, is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Well, unless you’re the publisher of that work of art, or otherwise stand to benefit from being able to say, “The critics agree: it’s a ten out of ten!” People associated with BioWare have been caught (if “caught” is the right word) giving Dragon Age II user scores of 10/10 at Metacritic. I suppose this isn’t as serious as when Belkin was caught paying people to give its products good Amazon reviews, but it something about it doesn’t sit right.
A Reddit user discovered a 10/10 Dragon Age II Metacritic user review written by someone with the handle Avanost. A couple of keystrokes later, thanks to mighty Google, revealed Avanost as BioWare employee Chris Hoban.
Another 10/10 user review was written by BioWare social network (read: message board) mod.
Both reviews have since been removed.
No, this isn’t exactly the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, but it’s worth discussing for a moment.
EA, Dragon Age II’s publisher, told Kotaku that this isn’t a big deal at all, and that people vote-up their stuff all the time. It happens in the Oscars and it happens in presidential elections. (In fact, I could have sworn that it was considered uncouth to vote yourself as a presidential candidate. Then again, it was also considered uncouth to openly campaign for yourself, as you can read about in Shelby Foote’s books about the American Civil War.) But while it may not be a big deal, it certainly betrays some sort of expectation I’d have as an everyday person reading up on the game.
The problem with Metacritic is that it’s completely useless. People who like something, in this case, Dragon Age II, give it a 10/10 while saying things like TOTALLY AWESOME BUY EIGHT COPIES. And people who dislike it give it a 0/10 with TRASH ON WHEELS BIOWARE SHOULD BE ASHAMED.
There’s no nuance, no substance. It’s the equivalent of yelling into a bullhorn at a bullhorn factory.
The point of a review isn’t to come up with a number, but to discuss the merits of the item in question. Who doesn’t laugh when they see a site give a game a fraction of a score, like an 8.2? What could that extra two-tenths represent? Why not an 8.3, or an 8.4? Why is it all that much better than an 8.1?
Maybe if we get past this obsession with with labeling this or that work of art with all powerful number we won’t see such sillines.